A commitment to fundamental rights, decency and an understanding of the challenges faced by marginalised people in the community, underpin Associate Professor Lorna Hallahan’s roles leading the social work discipline at Flinders and chairing the University’s Research Ethics Committee.
Her passion, advocacy and experience has also led a range of state and national roles – most recently being appointed by the Federal Government as one of four people overseeing the formal evaluation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and by State Government to review the Adoption Act.
“In Australia poor people are fundamentally female – often single mothers struggling to make ends meet and caught in the vortex of rent and bills that constrains where they can afford to live,” Associate Hallahan says.
“I do think Australian culture and the Australian community has a nascent capacity to embrace those people who in the past have been pushed away.”
After completing a degree in social work, Associate Professor Hallahan completed a PhD in disability and theology.
She first became aware of disability issues when she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16. By the time she had turned 18, she had endured aggressive chemotherapy, the loss of one leg and nine months in a residential rehabilitation facility with a despised (and soon disregarded) prosthetic leg, regathering her mobility.
The experience ultimately inspired her.
“Disability is not a core part of my identity but it is a core part of my life experience and shapes my view of the world, Associate Professor Hallahan said.
“I am in that less than one per cent globally of people with access to all the good things in life, so I have no story of oppression of my own; but I have seen the lives of people who don’t have that option.
“My experience with witnessing poverty, disability and other life hurdles that other people have encountered has been critically important in shaping my understanding of effective social policy.”